Missing the pictures? See our July 2010 eBook!
I WOULD NOT PUT OTHERS AT RISK RESCUING ME
As a singlehander attempting to do a nonstop circumnavigation — starting from the Canary Islands last October — I found myself in a very similar situation to Abby Sunderland, but a few months earlier. Like Abby, I was forced to pull into Cape Town for repairs. But unlike Abby and Jessica Watson, I'm not into media rights and making lots of money from my attempt. I also don't have a big team with whom I'm in contact with 24/7 by satphone for support and advice. I have none of that because I enjoy sailing and it's a personal challenge. I feel honored to have made lots of good friends because of my attempt, many of whom look out for me. And if I can raise some money and support for worthwhile charities along the way, so much the better.
I pulled into Cape Town in early December, hopefully for just a few days of repairs. At the time, I was aware that the season for continuing on in the Southern Ocean was closing because winter was approaching. I was headed to Cape Horn, and would have gotten there at end of February — which is late summer in those parts. Weather-wise, that should have been all right — but only just.
When my repair problems escalated, I found myself unable to leave until early March — three months later. As a result, I was forced to make the disappointing decision not to attempt Cape Horn, because it's not prudent to be sailing deep in the Southern Ocean in the winter. Even sailing past Australia to New Zealand in March was going to get more difficult because winter was approaching. Winter in the Southern Ocean means that deep, often violent lows, which are a regular feature of the region all year, move farther north. I had several days of stormy weather — up to 45 knots — when Jessica Watson was close by with Ella's Pink Lady near Tasmania, but I was managing to avoid the worst of the weather south of Australia in April.
So I was surprised when I heard that Abby was continuing on into the Southern Ocean in the winter. She would have been told by any South African sailor that it was not a good idea because of the strong weather down there at that time of year. In my opinion, her determination to go for the prize of being the youngest around clearly blinded her to the realities of the situation — and the likelihood she'd end up in difficulty of some kind.
I'm heading north now to re-start my solo round the world attempt, but in the right season. By starting from British Columbia in October, I should be in the Southern Ocean during the southern high summer months. I hope not to put other people at risk rescuing me simply because I was lacking in common sense and good seamanship — as I feel Abby and those involved with her attempt have been.
Nereida, Najad 380
From somewhere between New Zealand and Hawaii
Readers — Jeanne cruised with her husband until he passed away. She became a last-minute entry in the '06 Singlehanded TransPac. She subsequently came within 85 miles of completing a singlehanded circumnavigation before a problem with her autopilot resulted in her first Nereida going up on a beach in Mexico while she slept.
SAN FRANCISCO FLUBBED IT
My family and I recently returned to England, having visited San Francisco to watch the Clipper Round the World yachts complete the 5,680-mile Race 7 from Qingdao (China) to San Francisco. The competitors had to endure the most arduous and difficult weather the Pacific could throw at them, with very strong winds and tumultuous seas.
During the race, California, the State of California's representative, was dismasted and required assistance to get to San Francisco. Because she was escorted the last 2,000 miles by Hull & Humber, Spirit of Australia, and latterly Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, four boats arrived in San Francisco at about 9 p.m. on Sunday, April 4.
We and our family and friends had assembled at the Golden Gate YC to receive the crews after their 35 days at sea. So what a disappointment it was to find that the yacht club had not opened their bar, and no officials were present to welcome the crews and visitors. There was further disgust when the crews had to wait another 3½ hours for Immigration officials to allow them to enter the country. Further, the boats were moored on both sides of the harbor, so some of the crews had to walk the very, very long way around the harbor to get to the yacht club, which was their base. It appears that San Francisco virtually ignored the presence of these racing vessels and their crews.
When it came to a welcoming attitude and generous hospitality, San Francisco comes at the bottom of the list!
I note in your magazine that San Francisco is hoping to host the America's Cup. The city has had the opportunity to show what it can do, and flubbed it. In my opinion, San Francisco does not even deserve to be considered for hosting such a prestigious event.
I was pleased to read the article on page 92 of the May issue by Rob Grant. At least your magazine showed some recognition.
Brian — That you would rate San Francisco at the bottom of the list for hospitality shown to the Clipper Race boats doesn't particularly surprise us. Nor do we think it's unfair. Despite the fact the San Francisco was largely built on sailing, and was once the sailing gateway to trade with the Orient, the general population's primary interests lie elsewhere. That's just the way it is, as you can't make people like something. Further, just because somebody puts the name 'California' on the transom of a vessel doesn't necessarily mean that Californians are going to identify with her.
If you look at the facts, the Clipper Race is undeniably a tremendous sailing adventure. Yet for whatever reason, it hasn't captivated the imagination or hearts of California sailors. Maybe it has something to do with its being a for-profit enterprise, that few of the participants have local ties, and that the event only stops here a few days every couple of years. We don't know.
As for the fiasco at the Golden Gate YC, we think the responsibility for that probably lies with Clipper Race organizers. If you're putting on an event, it's your responsibility to see that things are properly arranged with regard to facilities being open, shuttle boats being available to help crew get between their boats and the base, and in arranging for Customs and Immigration to be on hand in a reasonable amount of time. We hold our big Crew List Party at the Golden Gate YC each year, and thanks to coordination between our staff and the yacht club staff, the event has always gone very smoothly. (If it makes you feel any better, when the crew of our catamaran arrived in San Diego on a Monday morning recently, they had to wait nearly three hours for officials to clear them in. Something about an international flight arriving at Lindbergh Field.)
We think the America's Cup would be a very popular event if held on San Francisco Bay. On the other hand, honesty compels us to say that we don't think it would be as popular as it would be in England, Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand or Australia. That's just the way it is.
THE EASTERLINGS WERE SAFE SAILORS
There probably aren't any sailors in Northern California who haven't heard about the tragic deaths of Jeff and Beth Easterling during a sail from Half Moon Bay to San Francisco Bay on May 23 aboard their beloved Ranger 33 Barcarolle. I went to the memorial service, and was delighted to see over 200 devoted friends and sailors in attendance.
Jeff took me on my very first sailboat ride more than 20 years ago aboard Barcarolle, and I was hooked. In a matter of weeks, he helped me find my own sailboat, a Ranger 29. We logged more hours on our two Rangers than Columbus did during his lifetime.
I learned to sail by doing, but Jeff taught me how to survive when sailing. He was devoted to safe sailing and spent countless hours teaching me to read and understand charts, to read the weather, and to know how to handle any situation. Because of Jeff's patience and concern, he kept me, his novice sailing buddy, out of harm's way. In light of this, I'm deeply disturbed by the armchair sailors who claim that Jeff and Beth died as a result of Jeff's being reckless. Nobody knows what happened that fateful day, so I find any such speculation to be unseemly.
What I'll remember about Jeff is how he enthusiastically spoke about the day he could retire and spend his remaining life sailing Barcarolle on the blue waters of the world. He was a devoted husband and adored his children. He was a life's handyman, always willing and able to repair any problem, be it a broken prop shaft or a broken heart. Everyone who had ever met Jeff realized they had encountered someone of superior character, and were honored to call him a friend.
I say a last goodbye to my dear friend.
Wild Irish, Yamaha 26
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE SOUTH CHANNEL?
The tragic loss of Jeff and Beth Easterling of the Ranger 33 Barcarolle got me thinking about the infamous South Channel entrance to the Bay from the ocean. Can Latitude review when the South Channel is safe, if ever?
I've used the South Channel twice, both on days when the swell was small. I was northbound on a Sabre 34 once; the other time I was southbound on a Californian 36 trawler. Each time I watched the depthsounder show quite shallow depths, making me wonder why I did it.
I understand that the accepted safe route is via the shipping channel and not turning to port for Half Moon Bay until you get to the Lightship. Any thoughts?
The other thing that seemed to come into play on that Sunday was the way the wind came up so quickly. I had just removed my coat on the Sabre 34 I was on just east of Alcatraz because it was so warm, and in seconds all hell broke loose in terms of wind and current. This happened right about the time we heard the distress call regarding Barcarolle. There was also a major flood starting, so I don't know if that came into play.
My deepest sympathy to the families of Jeff and Beth.
Bob — We fully agree with Kimball Livingston who, writing in his Blue Planet Times, used the title 'The Alleged South Channel' for his article on the incident. Both Livingston and we have been around long enough to know that far too many lives and boats have been lost attempting to use the so-called South Channel off Ocean Beach and/or the South Bar that forms a shallow semi-circle to the south of the main shipping channel. Given the way the sand bottom can quickly change off Ocean Beach, we frankly don't think there is any way to know at any given time whether a channel really even exists. This is certainly one place where you don't want to put blind faith in the charts.
With the proviso that we don't think anybody knows if the Easterlings tried to use the South Channel, or if their route had anything to do with their tragic demise, the safest thing is to never use it — and never cross the South Bar either. The problem is that it's so tempting to use the Channel or cross the Bar because they are much quicker ways of getting into the Bay than going all the way around the Lightbucket. It's also tempting because they are often transited without a problem. Nonetheless, since the first issue of Latitude in '77, we've periodically had to report on crews and boats that have gotten into big trouble — if not been lost — as a result of not taking the long way around.
Obviously, the most important factor in deciding to risk cutting the corner is the size of the swell. If it's moderate or is forecast to build, forget the alleged South Channel and be very wary of going over the South Bar. You might think that you're fine in 30 feet of water five miles off the beach, but history has proven time and again that that's not necessarily true. If the tide is ebbing, or if you're going to be in the Channel or crossing the bar when it's ebbing, it's much worse. In an ebb, it can take several hours from the time you enter the shallow water of the channel or the bar to the time you exit either of them into really deep water again. And if you get trapped in the South Channel or on the South Bar when things go bad, you're going to be fighting for your life in very difficult conditions to get back to the safety of deep water.
DECIDING WHO IS AN ASSHOLE, IF NOT BOTH
During this year's Master Mariner's Regatta, my crew and I were involved in a very frightening situation. As an experienced sailor who prides himself on an awareness of the rules of the road, I have always understood that the starboard tack boat has the right-of-way. More importantly, I have also understood that the captain of every vessel has responsibility for the safety of his/her passengers, crew and vessel, and that supersedes all other navigation rules.
On the second leg of the Master Mariner's Regatta, my old wooden sloop was heeled way over and was the last of three boats in a group heading from the Marin shore toward the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. Our genoa and full main blanketed nearly all our vision forward to starboard, and all our crew were on the high side. While sailing this course, I noticed a luxurious sloop motorsailing toward the second leg of the regatta for photo ops. This put them off my starboard side on the same tack. In a matter of five minutes, the large boat disappeared from my view behind the sails.
After the second of the two boats in front of me tacked over, I told my crew we were going to do the same. Meanwhile, the luxurious boat motorsailing tacked behind my sails and out of my sight. But once on a similar course, the skipper of the gold-plater chose to change course to starboard while motorsailing. It gave us a combined closing speed of about 12 knots.
Holding my course, I suddenly saw a wall of white fiberglass appear beneath my boom! By the time we crossed amidships, there was only about a foot between us. At that point I heard the cry, "Starboard tack!" We finished passing each other before the 'starboard' cry had ended. My eyes met the eyes of the other skipper at a range of about 10 feet. His eyes and mouth were wide open.
raised my hand to apologize. After glowering, the other captain shouted, "Asshole!" Maybe he needed to do that to blow off some steam. As for me, I was breathless — but relieved that we had narrowly escaped a potentially lethal situation. Though my boat is smaller, there is no doubt that she, with her thick planks and heavy bronze nose, would have cut the bigger boat in two. Somebody could have been killed. My thoughts immediately switched from doing well in the regatta to getting home safely.
In my opinion, both the other skipper and I were at fault. But on our beautiful but dangerous Bay, isn't it everyone's responsibility to be safe, regardless of the right-of-way? What happened was my fault, and I have accepted responsibility for not seeing the other boat tack, and not knowing where they were. What happened was a natural result of my choices, as well as counting on others out there. But it was the other skipper's actions that put his boat and passengers in harm's way as well. I suggest that we both deserve the title 'asshole'.
Black Jack, 28-ft hard chine wood boat
San Francisco Bay
Ted — We're confused. If you were sailing off the Marin shore toward the North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge and Crissy, you must have been on starboard. But that would have meant you at the helm and all your crew on the high side would have had almost total vision forward to starboard. How can you say your starboard vision forward was blocked when all your sails would have been on the port side?
But whatever, because it doesn't matter what tack you're on, you're required to be able to see in all directions. If that means you need to put somebody on the bow, you have to do that. If that means you've got to get one of your crew to the low side, you've got to do that. There is absolutely no relying on other boats to see and avoid you.
Having said that, if you really were on port and just missed a collision with a motorsailing boat on starboard, it was his fault, not yours. As you surely know, all boats under power, even if they also have sail up, must give the right-of-way to boats under sail only. It doesn't matter who is on port and who is on starboard, and whether a boat is luxurious or about to sink.
We're also confused about this business about the captain's responsibility to keep his crew, passengers and boat safe superseding the rules of the road. Everyone's following the rules of the road is precisely what keeps everyone safe.
GET THAT WRIST READY TO BE SLAPPED
Are you aware that results of the enquiry into the collision between Jessica Watson's Ella's Pink Lady, prior to the start of her solo circumnavigation, and the Chinese bulk carrier Silver Yang, has been released by the Australian government? It was summarized as follows:
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation found that when the two vessels collided, neither the yacht's skipper nor the ship's watchkeepers were keeping a proper lookout, nor were they appropriately using navigational aids to manage the risk of collision. The investigation also found that following the collision, the ship's watchkeeper did not offer to assist the yacht's skipper. This is a problem that has also been highlighted by previous ATSB investigations. ATSB Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan said there are significant lessons to be learnt from this incident:
"This is a timely reminder that, under United Nations' conventions, ship operators have an obligation to offer assistance immediately to other vessels following a collision," Mr. Dolan said. As a result of the ATSB investigation, the following key safety actions were taken:
• Ella's Pink Lady's radar visibility was enhanced before departing from Sydney.
• The international requirement to render assistance following a collision has been highlighted.
• Attention has been drawn to the possible limits in the detectability of Class B AIS transmissions.
• Silver Yang's operators intend to undertake further training of deck officers.
We found the full report (available at www.atsb.gov.au/publications/investigation_reports/2009/mair/268-mo-2009-008.aspx) to be intensely interesting, and recommend it to all who are interested in the interactions at sea between yachts and commercial vessels. I'll leave it to others to decide what it means, but I thought the lack of professional skills and integrity on the part of the officers on the Chinese ship was shocking and frightening.
Many issues were raised and discussed at length. One that was never mentioned is that when Silver Yang's watchkeeper realized — some 2.5 minutes before contact was made — that a collision was likely, he failed to sound the ship's siren in the usual five blasts that indicates a dangerous situation is developing. That simple action might well have awakened Jessica in time for her to take evasive action.
At any rate, Jessica's behavior during and after the collision has increased our respect for her considerably, and is interesting to compare to Ms. Sunderland's various activities.
P.S. Thank you for your thoughtful posting on the Sunderland 'family of the year'. The additional information you supplied has ratcheted up our attitude from gentle disapproval to the goat-gagging level. But your reportage has been pretty damn good . . . for a Cal guy.
Jim & Ann Cate
Insatiable II, Sayer 46
Iluke, NSW, Oz, heading north toward the sun
Jim and Ann — What we take from the report is that it doesn't matter if you do anything wrong, because nobody will be held responsible in any meaningful way. That seems to be par for 'civilization' these days. Only Nature dispassionately holds people accountable for mistakes, which is why we find Nature more alluring with each passing day.
The other thing that wasn't mentioned in the report — at least from what we read — is that singlehanding for any longer than a day or so is in violation of international rules because no one person can stand watch 24 hours a day. Don't get us wrong, we're big supporters of long-distance singlehanding, but it's kind of funny, because the Aussies must have thought it would be embarrassing to point out that their latest sailing hero had been in violation of international law for the duration of her circumnavigation.
For readers who may not recall, the Cates are originally from Northern California, but in '86 set sail for the South Pacific and Australia aboard their PJ Standfast 36 Insatiable. Reporting they'd gotten caught in the 'South Pacific Eddy' for a total 85,000 miles with that boat, in '07 they moved up to custom built Sayer 46. If they plan on returning to the States anytime soon, they haven't mentioned it.
WHY SO STINGY WITH THE RAFT-UPS?
To all Northern California sailors who think the Park Service has taken the fun out of Ayala Cove for us mariners, I agree! Going to Angel Island is and has always been about raft-ups of 3 to 10 boats for a fun weekend in the sun. But our lovely new moorings have ruined that — or have they? Maybe the Park Service doesn’t understand moorings. It wouldn't be surprising, as the Park Service isn't really water-based, is it?
The Park Service tells us that the new moorings are screwed into the famous mud bottom and can't handle more than two boats at a time. Is that right? The load strength is approximately seven times that of the largest old-style concrete blocks. In fact, they are more solid than any other type of mooring — including the mushroom, which the old Lightship used to maintain her position in the open ocean out past the San Francisco Bar. In storms, no less.
Let’s figure out a way to get the Park Service to put the fun back into Angel anchorages again. At $30 a pop they owe us something, don’t they?
Perseverance, Catalina 36
Jeff — The waters around Angel Island aren't the calmest in the world, so we suspect the Park Service's reasoning in not wanting 10-boat raft-ups isn't based on the danger that the moorings might fail, but rather that it's conceivable that two or even three 10-boat raft-ups might break loose and start mixing in unnatural ways. We could see three boats rafted together — as is permitted at most of the moorings at Catalina. If you want to raft with more than two other boats, we'd recommend rafting up at anchor in the lee of Angel Island or the Tiburon Peninsula, with everyone being responsible for whatever might happen.
For the record, our opinion is biased by the fact that we're not crazy about raft-ups in the first place. In most San Francisco Bay conditions, it seems as if it would be too easy for people to be injured or boats to be damaged. In places where the water is almost always calm — such as Newport Beach or La Playa Cove in San Diego — it's an entirely different story.
SIR ROBIN MAKES HIS OWN LUCK
In a recent 'Lectronic, you mentioned the common sailor's superstition about not starting a voyage on a Friday. When Robin Knox-Johnston was about to depart Falmouth, England, on June 14, 1968 — a Friday — in an attempt to become the first sailor to do a nonstop singlehanded circumnavigation, he was asked about the superstition. His reply was something to the effect of, "I'm ready. My boat is ready. Why wait? I plan on making my own luck."
Shamwari, Tayana 37
Charles — And Sir Robin, as he's now known, did complete that voyage. He did another solo, nonstop circumnavigation at age 67, but didn't start that one on a Friday.
The thing that really got us interested in the 'Don't start on Friday' business was reading Irving Johnson's The Peking Battles Cape Horn. In the pages of that very engaging and educational little book, readers learn how very seriously some of the toughest sailors ever — it was taken for granted back then that some of the crew would die on every voyage — took that superstition.
YOU TELL ME IT'S JUST SUPERSTITION
Jetti Matzke and I were lifted off my 32-ft catamaran Eclipse on the Gulf of Tehuantepec in January of '06 because of hurricane force winds and seas to 30 feet. We'd started our voyage on Friday the 13th. While the cat was recovered many months later, she was no longer of any value.
Cornwall, England / North America
NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON THE SEA
I could have used the advice of the little guy on my hand in the accompanying photo when I crossed the bar into Tomales Bay a number of years ago. I had crossed that bar numerous times since my first time in '65. As I was careful to always do it at the end of a flood, I never had any problem.
This time we were motorsailing in, being careful to do it at the end of a flood tide. The wind was light and there was nothing remarkable about the seas — although NOAA had posted warnings for hazardous seas. Mistake #1 was not knowing the actual height of the seas. Nonetheless, we were completely battened down and tethered with our harnesses. Mistake #2 was that we were on autopilot. Mistake #3 was that we didn't look behind us.
I had previously aborted attempts to cross the bar because it was obvious that waves were breaking all the way across the bar. This time we couldn't see any breaking in front of us. But the next thing we knew, we were being pooped by a breaking wave I estimate at between 5 and 7 feet. Water filled the cockpit, we were knocked down 60° from vertical, and we broached 70° off course to port. Surprise!
We struggled to get the autopilot turned off and the steering under control. We were somewhat successful, but didn't quite get the boat back on course before the second breaking wave hit us. We broached to port again, although we weren't knocked down as far as by the first wave. Once we got the boat back on course and under control once again, we were hit by the third breaking wave. Fortunately, our stern lifted, and we surfed down the face of the wave on course.
"What happens if the keel hits bottom as we surf down the wave?" was the thought that ran through my mind. I figured we might pitchpole. But a moment later we were in the tranquil waters of Tomales Bay and that was no longer a concern. We were a bit wet and shaken by the experience, but otherwise all right. There was no damage to our Bruce King-designed Ericson 38. Dinner at Tony's that night helped us recover.
I'm not proud of the way that experience reflects on my seamanship, but I share it with others so they won't repeat my mistakes. Had we been under manual steering, with a bit of warning we were about to be pooped, we probably could have surfed dead down all three waves for a thrilling ride into Tomales Bay.
As for the bird on my hand in the photo, she's a yellow-rumped warbler. Twice on trips out to the Cordell Bank we've been joined by these birds 25 miles offshore. As many as nine or ten of them have landed on the boat at the same time. They are a riot, as they explore everywhere, including the inside of the cabin. They like to eat any kelp flies on the boat, which is nice. They showed no fear of us at all. In that sense they are a bit like the animals on the Galapagos Islands.
Lagniappe, Ericson 38
O'Neil — You know what the Hawaiians teach their kids from a very young age? Never turn your back on the ocean. To which we'd add, never ignore forecasts of big seas, either.
FROM A CATAMARAN SURFING EXPERT
I am always interested and entertained by Latitude's articles about having fun on the water. And I follow the Baja stuff because I live in La Paz now. I always have to pick up a Latitude after a really bad day of doing boat repairs, because it reminds me that boating is fun. (I forget that when doing things like hanging upside down in the engine room.)
Regarding the discussions on cats crossing the bar, when I lived in Hawaii for a while, I worked for the Reef Hotel on Waikiki Beach. My job was crew aboard the 40-ft Rudy Choy Kepoikai. That's one of the tourist cats that would pick up as many as 20 passengers from right on the beach, sail out past Diamond Head, then back to the beach — usually with a great ride through the surf.
Kepoikai didn't have an engine; instead it was rigged with a small but colorful headsail. Thanks to her very shallow draft, very light displacement, kick-up rudders and crew of only three, the ride through the surf back in to the beach was always the highlight of the trip. I recall that we really gave the mainsheet an extra amount of slack to be sure the main wouldn't catch a gust and drive us into a pitchpole. Besides, the jib did most of the work.
We always based our take-off on not just the wave's set, but also if there were canoes and surfers in front of us. We typically waited out a good set to allow everyone else to get out of our way. Interestingly, once we caught the wave, we became a vessel with limited ability to maneuver, and other folks were supposed to get out of our way.
The surf varied from day to day, and when it was really awesome, we would work an area where the break was less violent due to more gentle bottom contours. If the surf was too big to sail off the beach and through the break, we'd cancel the trips until it calmed down.
When we took off on a swell coming back in, the wave would often break just aft of midships, but in no time the cat would accelerate out in front of the wave. Once we were surfing, we really couldn't bear off until the break collapsed into foam near the beach.
Going out, of course, was way more challenging than coming back in. The process of lifting over a breaking wave would leave the first half of the hulls out of the water, and we'd be driving the cat pretty hard to penetrate the surf line. The landing was sort of a controlled crash. The sails had to be slacked so we would not loose steering ability while airborne.
Since then, I have played mostly on the water. For a time, I ran charter cats for The Moorings. Never did have an opportunity to drive one of them through a surf line though.
Capt. (ret.) Fred Snow
Marquesa, La Paz, BCS, Mex
Capt. Fred — Back when we used to cover all the big sailing events in Hawaii, we and our kids spent a lot of time on the sand and in the water at Waikiki, from which vantage points the charter cats were naturally the center of attention. While most of the cats seemed old and a little funky, we were always impressed at how skillfully they were handled. Of course, after going in and out several times every day, they had the place wired the way Gerry Lopez used to have the Pipeline wired. Very impressive.
"KEEP YOUR EYES ON A SWIVEL OUT ON THE BAY"
I want to thank Bar Pilots Unit 14 Capt. Chris Anderson for calling the Coast Guard after a near miss between an incoming container ship and me on my sailboard at 5 p.m. on June 16. I had not been paying attention, and I had no business being where I was. The wind suddenly died, and I looked up to see a huge ship bearing down on me. At one point I thought I was going to be run over. I felt like a mosquito about ready to be slapped. As it turned out, the ship's wake tossed me aside as the ship slipped by about 40 to 50 feet away. Note to fellow windsurfers: Keep your eyes on a swivel when out on the Bay. It's no place to have a 'senior moment'.
I see there was a Coast Guard safety meeting for us sailboarders at the St. Francis YC last Sunday. Unfortunately, I didn't know about it, nor did any of my Crissy buddies mention it.
Edwin — Thanks for sharing your experience. Hopefully it will prevent what may have been a future accident.
FRUGAL BOAT BUILDING TO THE NTH DEGREE
Max Ebb's articles on hi-tech rigs was thought provoking, but neglected to mention that each new advance is exponentially more expensive. The cost of fancy gadgets supposedly needed on a new sailboat is frightening, and soon only Wall Street traders will be able to go sailing.
By contrast, the stumpy masts and simple fittings of the ancient gaff rigs are cheap. For a smaller boat, one can go to the forest and cut some suitable saplings. Then, with a draw knife and plane, serviceable spars can be made for almost nothing. A visit to the local butcher will get a bone for the dog and some fatty offcuts to render into tallow. With this, one can slough down the mast so everything slides nicely. And even a somewhat nondescript sail, with four corners and hoisted by two halyards, can be set.
Would the result be efficient? Of course not! But it's better to sail less close to the wind than to not sail at all. By the way, what I describe is not from the passages of Robinson Crusoe, but rather what I did when building a 28-ft Sharpie in Redwood City in '60.
As a teenager in wartime England, I built a skiff, partly from lumber salvaged from bombed out buildings, and water-proofed with tar from the gasworks. I vividly remember sailing on the Thames in the summer of '44, watching the V-1 lights twinkling across the night sky, very much hoping the engines wouldn't cut out until they were well past. I was sailing on a gaffer then, too.
Leaving the U.K. in the mid-'50s, I settled in the Bay Area, and increasing affluence enabled me to acquire proper yachts with pointy headed rigs. But I am not positive they were more fun than boats built with as much ingenuity as money.
Building and sailing skiffs and dories is supposed to be quintessentially American. We read that there are hundreds of bored local youths, many drifting into drugs and crime. Would it not pay society to provide the planks, nails and hand tools for free so they could build boats? At least some of the lads might learn skills, character and initiative by building boats, without too much supervision. Providing, of course, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) did not classify the results as 'Bay fill'!
Dolly Grey, Aries 32
Michael — Times change and so do the interests of youth. We don't think many kids are going to want to ask a butcher — assuming they could find one — for some tallow. Or want to plane a sapling — assuming they wouldn't get arrested for taking one from a forest. Furthermore, we think the history of the state's giving anything to anybody in an attempt to motivate them has been dismal, usually resulting in people becoming more, rather than less, dependent.
What we try to do is publicize the great things that some sailors have done or are doing, and hold them up for youth to perhaps want to emulate. That's why we always like to feature articles that show how inexpensive it can be for people, particularly young people, to cruise.
But when it comes to frugal cruising, we'd direct youth away from wood gaffers and toward fiberglass Bermuda-rigged sloops of the '60s, '70s and '80s. For the most part, these boats were overbuilt, sail quite efficiently, and sometimes can be had for a song. Armed with one of these, a young man or woman with a couple of grand, snorkeling equipment and surfboards can have the adventure of a lifetime in Mexico or the South Pacific — or both. And when they return home a few years later, they'll likely be more intelligent, skilled and independent.
AVOID BIRD FLU BY AVOIDING BIRD POO
While bringing the Hunter 410 New Moon back to California after the '06 Ha-Ha, we found out that it would have been easier to clear out of Mexico from somewhere other than Ensenada. When we got to Ensenada, a little man at Customs demanded we produce the original crew. After three hours of busting our chops trying to explain to him that they had cleared off the boat in Cabo and had long before flown home from there, the man's female supervisor intervened and verbally slapped him around. She told him that our documents were fully in order and demanded he clear us out. That really ticked him off.
On the way from Ensenada to San Diego, we picked up a boobie — blue-footed, I think — on top of the boom. Everyone wanted to give the tired bird a ride, as you reported Patrick Ralph did with the little black bird that landed on Profligate and caused so much trouble when they tried to clear into Customs. But after we smelled the boobie's stinky excrement the next morning, he was unceremoniously pushed overboard with a boathook, and the boom was washed down with buckets of water. Birds are messy hitchhikers.
Serenisea 2, Hunter 37
Gary — While the actions of the Customs man in Ensenada had to be infuriating, to a certain extent they are understandable. After all, when you clear into Mexico at whatever port, you'd think you'd get a new crew list to reflect who was going to be on the boat with you from then on. But no, you spend the rest of the season sailing around Mexico with a crew list reflecting people who got off the boat months before and not the ones who are on her at the time. A little strange, no?
Mexico is a fabulous country and a fabulous place to cruise, but their clearing procedures are still reliably inconsistent. For example, when you clear into La Cruz or Puerto Vallarta, you are required to visit the port captain. But when you clear into La Paz or other places, you can do it over the radio. Or, if you're in a marina in La Paz, the marina will do it for you. Consistently inconsistent.
Even more peculiar, if you're clearing out of La Paz for the United States, the port captain requires an expensive and inconvenient health clearance for the vessel and all the crew, and if we're not mistaken, a rat inspection, too. To our knowledge, this is the only port that requires it, which is why nobody clears out of La Paz for the States. If anybody has been required to get health certificates from any other ports in Mexico before heading for the States, we'd like to hear about it.
WE FOLLOW THE PROFLIGATE TREATY
So what I read in the June 9 'Lectronic is that, in spite of MARPOL rules, yachts entering the U.S. at San Diego are supposed to dispose of all of their garbage — including plastic bags — overboard prior to entry. This is illegal and doesn't make any sense.
Flying Cloud Yachts
Lon — Sorry, we weren't as clear as we could and should have been. As part of their "outreach," the very pleasant and professional folks from Customs told Doña de Mallorca, captain of Profligate, that: 1) You should separate all your garbage as follows: Anything "that is of plant or animal origin, including food scraps, packaging materials, and any items that have come into contact with these materials," needs to be kept in bags separate from all other garbage. That's because the former must be incinerated or sterilized, which costs taxpayers a lot of money. After being inspected, normal garbage can be thrown into normal garbage bins. What drives these folks nuts are the really big yachts that show up in San Diego with 40 bags of unseparated garbage. 2) It's recommended that certain foods, including, apples, raw chicken, raw beef, and avocados — to name just few — be thrown into the sea where it is legal to do so under MARPOL rules, rather than being brought into San Diego where it has to be confiscated. However, other fresh foods — such as limes, garlic, chilies, packaged deli meats and other stuff — can be kept.
Unfortunately, the USDA pamphlet contained no list of which foods had to be thrown away and which could be kept. And if you call the California number for the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at (310) 725-1949 — as we dutifully did at 3:18 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon — you're likely to get a message, as we did, that tells you, sorry, nobody is there to help you at that time, but if you'll leave a number after the beep, they'll surely get back to you sooner or later. Unfortunately, immediately after the beep there was another message that said the machine couldn't take messages. Way to go, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service!
For the record, these are the rules under the MARPOL Treaty: If you're 25 miles offshore, the only thing you can't throw in the ocean is plastic. If you're 18 to 25 miles offshore, it's also illegal to dump dunnage and lining materials that float. If you're 3 to 12 miles offshore, you also can't dump paper, rags, glass, crockery, metal, food and plastic — unless it's been ground up to pieces smaller than one square inch. If you're less than three miles from shore, you can't throw any of the stuff overboard. And forget discharging oil anywhere at sea.
The Profligate Treaty states that you shouldn't throw anything overboard but food, and that only in accordance with MARPOL, which means 3 to 12 miles for stuff under one square inch, and 12 to 25 miles for larger pieces.
MARIN SHERIFF'S MARINE UNIT TO THE RESCUE
While sailing a small dinghy across Raccoon Strait on June 5, to my great consternation and embarrassment, I capsized. After several failed attempts at righting my vessel, I grew tired and cold, and realized I was in real trouble. Far more trouble than I had bargained for. Rescue attempts by passing sailboats were ineffective and clearly dangerous.
Whether it was God's intervention or just plain luck I will never know, but the rapid response of the Marin Sheriff's Marine Patrol has to be recognized and praised. Sheriff Deputies Nicholas Pottoroff and Jon Harrison took immediate charge. It rapidly became clear to me that they were well-equipped, highly-trained, and extremely competent. Simply put, they saved my life. I was quickly transported back to Tiburon, where I was met by the Tiburon Fire Department and EMR units, which the deputies had arranged for en route. The deputies not only stayed with me during this evaluation, but also coordinated, with folks from the Corinthian YC, the retrieval and return of my vessel.
My thanks for a job well done!
R. Wm Schmidt, MD
R. — A tip of the Latitude hat to the Marin Sheriff's Department. But what troubles us is that "passing sailboats" were unable to save you from what might have been a terrible fate.
A BETTER JACKLINE SET-UP
I've noticed recent articles about sailors falling overboard at sea, and various schemes — such as the loop or bobstay methods — for them to get back aboard. A conclusion reached in these articles was the best solution is to not fall off the boat in the first place.
I agree with this thinking. The first line of defense against going overboard is using a harness and having a suitable line to clip the harness onto. Even with these precautions, it's possible to fall overboard while being attached to your boat, and be dragged in the water until you're dead! Latitude has reported on such things happening on more than one occasion.
When I look at boats with jacklines, many have them attached on either side of the boat near the cap rail. If someone were to fall overboard using the setup, even if they were wearing a short harness, they'd be smashed against the hull if not knocked out. And even if you were Superman, you'd still not be able to get yourself back aboard.
To prevent this from happening, I've always used a central jackline with short harness attachment so, if I did lose my balance and fall, I would be confined to the deck of the boat, and not go beyond into a head-cracking experience followed by my dragging in the water until dead. My system runs from the stern to the bow, with lines on either side of the mast. They allow free movement along the length of my boat. I shudder when I see jacklines running along the toe railing or in close proximity to it, as it really is an accident waiting to happen.
In fact, I know this to be true from personal experience. On a crossing from St. Thomas to Panama, my daughter fell overboard. Attached to the boat by her lifeline, she was sucked up against the hull. We didn't even know she'd fallen overboard until we noticed the strange turbulence behind the boat! When we looked over the side, there she was! If we hadn't been on deck, the outcome could have been much different. At that time, we were using double jacklines that weren't near the center of the boat, which meant they still allowed my daughter to go overboard.
Kingfish, Fisher 37
Tony — Makes sense to us.
REITERATING THE POINT
When I sent you my recent email of May 15 [Editor's note: see the letter directly above], little did I know that four more sailors would be lost at sea off the coast of California. I knew one of them — Felix Knauth — personally. In all the cases, the still-floating boats made it to shore while the sailors didn't. It's my belief that if the boats had had central jacklines and the crews had been wearing short harnesses, their chances of staying with their vessels, and living, would have been much greater. I firmly believe that it's crucial that one's jackline and safety harness system not allow any crewmember to go overboard.
HOW DO SINGLEHANDERS DO IT?
As a budding solo sailor, I'm curious how experienced singlehanders plan to get back aboard their boats if they go over. That assumes that they're tethered, but on a long-enough leash that they could end up hanging over the side, perhaps even dragging in the water.
Dolce Vela, S2 9.2A
Carey — When we've singlehanded, our assumption has always been — and continues to be — that if we go overboard, we'll die. End of story. Actually, that's always been our assumption even if we have crew, so we try really hard not to go overboard.
Not all singlehanders are as fatalistic. We hope some of them will be kind enough to share their get-back-aboard strategies.
THERE ARE BETTER PLACES THAN THE ALA WAI
I read with interest Latitude's May issue commentary on the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor in Honolulu. Having lived in Hawaii for close to 19 years, I was a slipholder there as well as a member of the Hawaii YC.
Unfortunately, the Ala Wai has always been a second- or third-class facility. It's not too surprising, given the Third World mentality of the state government in Hawaii. These folks have been milking the marina income for many years, while spending the excess on non-related things.
Hawaii is so anti-boating that it was a miracle that HASEKO, a Japanese Developer, was successful in building their beautiful marina facility out at Ko Olina. I attended several of the meetings prior to the marina's being built, and saw what big opposition they faced. But it's where I would keep my boat if I still lived in Hawaii.
With regard to living aboard at the Ala Wai, we lived aboard on the 400 Row for a while. It was hot and noisy, and there were parking and other problems. There are better places!
Garry — We hate being so cynical, but there seems to be endless evidence — from Arlington National Cemetery to the Ala Wai — that government on all levels is a bad brew of incompetence, inefficiency and corruption. Can't we do better? Can't anyone in government service be held accountable?
WE'RE ASHAMED FOR A DIFFERENT REASON
I'm sorry, but I think spearing a trophy fish using scuba gear is pathetic. Fish like the pargo featured in the May 24 'Lectronic are the breeding stock for an entire species, not just trophies for sailors who believe they are on some sort of a self-realization trip. I say have fun — but play fair. And it's not really the size that counts. By the way, it's not just the Mexicans who have diminished fish stocks in the Sea of Cortez, as cruisers from the north have played a part as well.
Sea of Cortez, '79
Tom — Ethan Smith, who took the pargo you refer to, was free-diving, as were the two friends he was diving with. Smith is a member of the Long Beach Neptunes, the oldest free-diving club in the country. Of the 34 records that the club lists, 28 of them were set free diving. In fact, scuba gear is not allowed in any of the club's competitions.
It might seem ironic, but we'll bet you a nickel that the members of that club are generally more supportive of conservation efforts than is the general public. These aren't casual fish-killers, as fish conservation is, among other things, in their best interest. And as you'll note in Smith's letter which follows this, the pargo he shot was one in a school of about 100.
As one who loves to eat fish, it's our opinion that Smith is a more responsible and ethical consumer than we are. For while we and most other people just order our fish from a menu or take it wrapped in plastic from a food store refrigeration case, Smith not only worked hard to get his fish; to a certain extent he put his life on the line getting it. It shames us.
As for the role cruisers have played in the diminishing fish stocks in the Sea of Cortez and off Mexico, we don't want to dismiss it entirely, but we honestly think it's minimal. It's our understanding that 50,000 hooks are lowered into the Sea of Cortez each night. How many of those do you think are put down there by cruisers?
YOUR FAITH WAS JUSTIFIED
I want to thank the publisher of Latitude for having faith in me, and to tell him that it was well-placed. In short, the photo of me with the pargo that appeared in the May 24 'Lectronic Latitude is genuine, and the fish was real. The additional photos you received, plus the six witnesses who will attest to it, should be enough to convince anyone.
As Latitude guessed at the time of the 'Lectronic piece, we were in the middle of several weeks of wandering around the Sea of Cortez, and it wasn't until we pulled into the Singlar facility in Santa Rosalia yesterday that I was able to get on the internet. As a result, I'm coming very late to the discussion that the photo I sent might have been doctored.
I have no hard feelings toward LaDonna Bubak, the skeptical Latitude editor. I've heard several comments from people who've seen that picture — including my wife — to the effect: "Wow! That hardly looks real!" or, "That's so crazy it looks Photoshopped!" Having seen plenty of pics of guys holding fish in the foreground to make them look larger, and understanding LaDonna's role as a fighter for journalistic truth and justice, I'm not offended at her skepticism.
I also agree with LaDonna that the pargo in the photo looks larger than 75 lbs. I've shot two over 50 pounds, and this fish was much bigger. As for the weight, Thor Temme, whose 45-ft trimaran Meschach I was diving from, and I weighed the fish three times on my 50-kg scale. The first two times it caused the scale to throw up — something it does when it is overloaded. Not sure what to think at that point, I took the scale apart, cleaned and reinstalled the batteries, and got a weight of a bit over 75 pounds.
As a competitive diver for 14+ years with the Long Beach Neptunes, the oldest free-diving organization in the United States, and someone who dislikes being called a liar, I was loath to submit the fish to the club with a questionable weight. So I chose the lower number. In hindsight, I should have gotten accurate measurements of the fish so I could have used a formula to verify the weight. I personally believe that the fish was much larger than 75 lbs — perhaps even over 100 lbs. In any event, it sure was a grand fish and a great day.
For those who are curious, I took the fish near Roca Corbetena, which is about 15 miles offshore of Punta Mita, which many people know is at the tip of Banderas Bay, Mexico. I was diving with Thor, his friend Michael who was visiting from Hawaii, and their young boys, Tristan, Sasha and Max. While at Tenancatita Bay months earlier, Thor and I had hatched the plan to do a "boys' trip" to Roca Corbetena right after the Banderas Bay Regatta, as Michael, who is also a keen breath-hold spearfisherman, would have a few days before returning home. I suggested Corbetena, as I'd dived it on several times, and knew it to be a good spot for pelagics.
Thor agreed to skipper and I agreed to guide, so after the post-regatta party, we took off at 4 a.m. from Paradise Marina. We arrived at the rock mid-morning, and found light wind and seas. It was perfect. Our quarry of choice was yellow fin tuna, and we started out diving a couple of high spots. Michael and I were in the water, while Thor ran the boat 'live', shuttling us up-current each time we drifted through. We found bait, but no tuna or other game fish, so we decided to drift to the rock itself. This was much more interesting, as there was good visibility and lots of bait, as well as large jacks, cabrilla and wahoo. Despite several sightings of the latter, I was unable to get close enough to take one.
After several trips past the rock, and with the boys itching to get back to Punta Mita to do some surfing, Thor and I agreed to one last pass. I was gliding down off a ledge at about 45 feet when a school of 100+/- pargo breezed by unaware below me. I lined up on the largest shoulder I saw and fired, hitting the fish centerline behind the dorsal fin. When that happened, it was off to the races. Happily for me, the fish ran deep. After much huffing and puffing, I was able horse him up before he found a hole to hide in. The kids, fishermen all, went nuts when I swam the fish back to the boat. As for me, I was simply pleased to pull off the hat trick in such fine style!
My thanks to Thor — for the ride and for running the boat.
Eyoni, Ovni 36
Ya Ta Hey, NM / Currently at Santa Rosalia, BCS
Readers — We asked Ethan for some information about diving for fish in Mexico. He responded as follows:
"As far as I know, shooting fish using scuba gear is illegal in Mexico. But as you probably know, that depends on whom you ask and when.
"Free divers are capable of taking large fish. This includes a 545-lb giant sea bass taken by Bob Stanbery at Santa Cruz Island in '68, and a 425-lb shortfin mako taken by C. Steward Graham off the Coronado Islands in '99.
"When I go for large pelagics, I use a 70-ft Norprene bungie, which acts like a drag on a fishing reel, one or two inflatable or foam-filled floats, and a four or five-band custom-built speargun which fires an 11/32 x 65-inch shaft. Each rubber pulls something like 75 lbs. I rig the shaft with a 3/16-inch stainless cable shootline of just over 20 feet in length, and use a 6-inch Morifish speartip that 'breaks away' from the tip of the shaft on 1,000-lb Spectra cord. This is the cord you can see exiting the fish's back in the pargo picture. A slide-ring slips along the shaft to keep the shaft and tip attached. The tip toggles into or on the far side of the fish, then detaches from the shaft. This prevents the shaft's becoming a lever and either ripping out or bending. This rig is ideal for wahoo, amberjack, yellowfin and so forth. I use a vinyl float-line for reef fishing, as Norprene is expensive and not abrasion-resistant.
"While I usually horse grouper and pargo up to the surface to keep them from holing up on the bottom, this particular fish made a freight train rush to the bottom. So after a bit of tug 'o war, I ascended my float-line to the floats. Each float has about 40 lbs of flotation. The first float was completely underwater, and the second was half submerged. I straddled them like a pool noodle, and began hauling the big fish up.
"My shot had been a good one, with the tip toggled under the spine. So after the first long run, I was able to make pretty good progress getting him up. After he was up to the cable shoot line, I clipped the fish off to my buoy with a long-line clip. Then I dove down, tackled him in a bear hug, and stuck him in the brain.
"I'm happy to share the intimate details, although based on experience I'm concerned how those who have mindlessly divorced predation, and even death, from their styro-trayed, meat-section delicacies, might respond."
"I STILL SAY IT'S PHOTOSHOP"
Despite the additional photos of the pargo, and the claims that it's for real, I still think it was Photoshopped. In the first photo, the right side of the man's head and body is in the shade, but the same side of the fish is in the sunlight. Similarly, in the third picture, the one of the fish on the boat with the kids, the fish has no visible means of support. It's in semi-upright position and the shadow of the man's left leg on the deck stops at the fish. In other words, the fish covers the shadow of his leg.
And here's another reason I think it's been Photoshopped. As others have pointed out, it looks too big to be 75 lbs. This wahoo, caught on Cassiopeia during the '03 Ha-Ha was 75 lbs. The pargo looks much larger.
ex-Cassiopeia, Swan 65
"LOOKS REAL TO ME"
Ethan's Smith's pargo looks real to me, and I've been a captain of a charter fishing boat for 40 years. When people are getting their photos taken with their fish, I always tell them to hold the fish as far in front of them as possible, because it makes the fish look bigger.
HOW'S THIS FOR A FISH?
You asked for photos of fish caught while sailing. I caught the mahi mahi in the accompanying photo while sailing in Fijian waters. I'm not sure of the size or weight, but I do know that it fed us for a few days. And you should have seen the size of the one that got away!
Aeventyr, Tayana 37
Seattle / Currently in the South China Sea
I don't know the weight of the mahi in the accompanying photo, but we guessed it to be around 45 lbs. As I recall, it was 54 inches long. We caught it three hours out of Muertos on the way over from Mazatlan. It just so happens that we were having a fishing derby with the folks on Just A Minute when we landed it.
Sun Baby, Lagoon 41
MARLIN FROM A SAILBOAT
The accompanying photo is of Marina Village Harbormaster Alan Weaver landing a marlin off the back of Escapade off Bermuda. It was catch 'n' release.
Escapade, Catana 52
Readers — We received a lot more photos of fish caught from sailboats, and hope to run more of them in future issues as space permits.
IT WAS A HELLUVA RIDE!
Congratulations to Bill Turpin and the crew of the R/P 77 Akela for a very impressive sail in the Spinnaker Cup from San Francisco to Monterey. Reading about it reminded me of the '83 Midget Ocean Racing Association (MORA) race from San Francisco to Monterey I did with David Hodges, Ian Klitza and Jay Crum on the Wilderness 30 Special Edition. We sailed the course in 8 h, 35 m. To be sure, that's about an hour and 25 minutes longer than it took Akela, but Special Edition is less than half as long as Akela.
As I recall, we had a noon start, which I found frustrating because we wanted a shot at finishing before sunset. As it was, we didn't get the kite up until we were down by Half Moon Bay. But the breeze just kept clocking and building. At one point, I remember looking back and seeing the boat behind us pitchpole. The boat behind them dropped their chute and winged out a jib. But Special Ed could still profitably carry our fractional 1.5-oz chute, a sail Ian always referred to as 'the potato chip'. The adrenaline was flowing pretty strong as we blasted down Monterey Bay.
We finished at 8:35 p.m., which was just about sunset. It had been a hell of a ride!
Osprey, Santa Cruz 40
Eric — A young Hodges, Klitza, Crum and Sultan on a 30-ft ultralight — one can only imagine what that must have been like.
WORDS OF EXPERIENCE
Having just received our latest Latitude here on South Maui, I really enjoyed reading the article about other folks’ experiences with the Crew List. I'd like to add my thoughts for those who may be picking up Latitude for one of the first times and wondering how to get into the wonderful world of sailing.
I grew up as a backpacker and mountaineer in the Sierra, and started sailing almost three decades ago with my dad’s senior citizen group, which sailed out of the Alameda Naval Air Station. They jokingly called themselves the Orinda YC. One day one of them handed me a Latitude and said, “I think you’ll like this.” After reading it cover-to-cover, and seeing all of the stories and pictures about sailors obviously having the time of their lives, I wrote a letter to the editor. It essentially asked, 'Where do I sign up?' and was published. The Editor/Publisher/Wanderer/Grand Poobah very patiently wrote a long reply back and advised me to go for it, to walk the docks — still possible then — sail in beer can races, hang out at the yacht clubs after the races, and above all, sign up for the Crew List.
To make a long story short, I followed his advice, and had many, many great sails and cruising experiences, both from the Crew List parties and from hanging out at yacht and sailing clubs, Over a decade, things came full circle, from my asking, "Where do I sign up?" to my being featured in the pages of the magazine.
As the popular Hawaiian surfing song goes, “If I can do it, so can you!” So if you’re out there wondering how to get into this incredible world of sailing and cruising, look no further than Latitude, the Latitude Crew List, the Crew List Parties, and the great yacht and sailing clubs around the Bay and beyond. Trust me, there are boatowners out there who would love to have you aboard, even as a rank beginner.
Readers — If you make an effort, the things Mark recommends do work. Patrick Ralph of Benicia recently did a Baja Bash aboard Profligate. He told us that he's gotten 20 rides from the Crew List, including the last two Ha-Ha's and the last two Pacific Puddle Jumps.
NO PRE-MEXICO PAPERWORK NECESSARY
I met the Grand Poobah and Doña de Mallorca briefly at the '98 Ha-Ha Crew List Party at the Encinal YC. I opted not to be a part of the Ha-Ha, as it moved south too fast for me, but I did spend the '98-'99 season cruising in Mexico.
I'm now hoping to spend the '10-'11 season cruising in Mexico. My current home port is Eureka, and I'm wondering if I have to go to a Mexican consulate before sailing to Mexico. If I do, do you know of a service that can take care of the paperwork for me? I'd prefer to avoid having to make an expensive trip to the consulate in either Sacramento or San Francisco.
This time my cruising plan is to not stop anywhere north of Mazatlan, except possibly to anchor or rest overnight. And on my way down, I wish to avoid San Francisco and San Diego entirely. What are my options?
Flying Cloud, Yorktown 35
David — You have nothing to worry about. There is no paperwork that needs to be done prior to clearing in at a Mexican port of entry, and when you get to one, all you need is your boat registration or documentation and a passport for everyone on your boat.
Mexican ports of entry on the way to Mazatlan include Ensenada, Cedros, San Carlos and Cabo. To date, Mexican officials haven't expressed any concern with boats stopping overnight in Mexican waters prior to clearing in at a port of entry. For instance, the Ha-Ha fleet stops at both Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria prior to clearing in at Cabo. But you don't want to push it.
For answers to these and many other questions about cruising in Mexico, download Latitude 38's First Timer's Guide to Cruising Mexico for free.
THE COSTS OF CHARTERING 'TI PROFLIGATE
I just read the June Sightings piece on the Leopard 45 catamaran the publisher of Latitude has in a yacht management program in the British Virgin Islands, and how well it's worked for him over the last three years. That's very interesting, and it may be something I'd like to get into in a few years. But for right now, I'm curious what a Leopard 45 cat — which I understand has four cabins with four heads en suite — costs to charter for a week in a second-tier yacht charter program.
Tony — All we can tell you is what our '00 Leopard 45 'ti Profligate charters for from BVI Yacht Charters. In the off season, which is August 1 through October 31, she goes out for $4,350 a week, taking a maximum of eight passengers. In the low season, which is May 1 to July 31, and November 1 to December 14, she goes out for $4,995. In the mid season, which is January 6 to January 21, and April 1 to April 30, she goes for $5,750. And in high season, she goes for $6,550 a week.
In our opinion, the start of low season, meaning May 1, is a really good 'big bang for the buck' time, as is the end of low season — although 'ti Profligate is already booked for that period this year. For those needing to escape really cold climes, we also recommend the January 6 to January 21 mid season period.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the Leopard 45 is all but the exact same boat as the Leopard 47, except the 47s have a two-ft sugar scoop on each hull, generators, and sometimes air conditioners. For those three extra things you pay another $1,700 to $2,000 per week. To each their own, but we'd rather have the extra money.
We hate to sound like used car dealers, but if you want to charter 'ti Profligate, don't wait too long, because she's a very busy cat and is rapidly booking up. But remember, our cat and BVI Yacht Charters certainly aren't the only games in town. Call around to find the right boat and deal for you. Others you might contact are TMM Yacht Charters, CYOA Yacht Charters, Footloose Sailing Charters and Conch Charters, all of whom advertise in Latitude.
For folks with bigger budgets and looking for more room and luxury, the Lagoon 440s and the Leopard 460s, available from different charter outfits, are two of the more popular and attractive options. Both have elevated helm stations, and the latter even have electric toilets — something the ladies swoon over. No matter what boat you choose to charter, and no matter what charter outfit she's from, we're pretty sure you'll have a fabulous time.
DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT IN CALIFORNIA
I intend to bring my Alberg 30 from the Chesapeake to the San Diego area later this year to prepare for the sail home to Australia. I'm having trouble finding a marina where I can live on and work on my boat while I get ready to leave, and also have her hauled. Can you help me?
Owen — Harbormasters in San Diego — and most places in California — tell us there are plenty of 30-ft slips available. But you may be frightening them away by saying you want to live and work on your boat, too. Liveaboard slips are in short supply everywhere, and a harbormaster's nightmare is that one of his docks will become a floating boatyard.
Our advice is to truck your boat out here to a yard where you can get all the messy exterior work taken care of. Then present your nice-looking boat, your nice-looking self, and your truthful situation to a harbormaster in person. If you look as though you'll be a credit to the marina, some harbormasters will be more flexible with bending the rules or turning a blind eye to minor infractions.
If you're going to want or need to do more extensive work on your boat, we suggest that you truck her to San Diego, then sail her to Mexico and take up residence in one of the second-tier marinas that allow owners to live and do work on their boats.
WISHING I WAS THERE
From the shores of Central America to the walls of New Folsom Prison, where I am now, I've always looked forward to reading what is going on in the sailing community — and Latitude never lets me down. I do want to make an observation about the term "cruisers' remorse," though. In light of the piss-poor decision that got me here, I'd have to say that I suffer more from the affliction of "returner's remorse." No doubt I deserve my punishment, and less doubtedly I look forward to open waters once and forever more. Seven years down and six to go — I'll be seeing you in Pura Vida!
New Folsom Prison
Darin — You're more than halfway there and seem to have the right attitude. We wish you the best of luck.
THINKING RATIONALLY WHILE PANICKING
My condolences to the family and friends of Dave Gish, who drowned in Ventura West Marina. My husband and I kept our sailboat at Ventura West Marina for over 20 years, so I speak from direct knowledge. All anyone who goes into the water in a small harbor like Ventura needs to do is swim/paddle to the shore and climb out on the rocks. No ladders are necessary, just common sense.
Bettina, 41-ft Laurent Giles sloop
Pt. Townsend, Washington
Linda — That's a good point, and certainly something for everyone who keeps a boat in a marina with a gradually sloped embankment to keep in mind. On the other hand, we used to keep our Freya 39 at Ventura West, and if a fully clothed person fell in into the chilly waters near the end of the dock, it could be a pretty difficult swim to the embankment. At a time like that, common sense is often replaced with panic. We think the important thing is that everybody have a get-out-of-the-water plan in advance.